Sunday, March 23, 2008

McCain Isn't Bush -- He's Cheney

In his horrifying recent appearance on Good Morning America, the Cheney gave us another classic Cheney moment, dripping with a contemptuous ire one normally associates not with elected officials but with crocodiles.

Discussing the Iraq war, reporter Martha Raddatz reminded the Cheney, "Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting." At this, the Cheney snorted, "So?" Raddatz, a little taken aback: "So? You don’t care what the American people think?" The Cheney: "No." (Emphasis not added; he said it in italics.) Continuing: "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."

Is that a prize? Let's just admire it for a moment.

MARTHA RADDATZ: You don't care what the American people think?


Breathtaking. Before we move on: What the Cheney calls "fluctuations in the public opinion polls" are actually numbers that have been dropping steadily and quickly downward for a very long time. Five years ago, when this misguided act of evil began, 68% of the American people supported the war; today, it's down to 32%. Moreover, the Cheney has no problem justifying his arguments by saying that the American people agree with him. "The American people will not support a policy of retreat," he intoned ominously at Yokosuka Naval Base last year.

Anyway, the Cheney moment on Good Morning America reminded me of a similar exchange which took place last year between 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley and John McCain, on the same subject. When Pelley asked McCain "at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?" McCain said, "Well, again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want."

You could say that there's something refreshingly honest about an elected official flatly admitting that he doesn't care what the people want. Also, there's the deathless Edmund Burke line about how a representative betrays the people if he sacrifices his judgment to their opinion. But it's hard to argue that you should be the next president after declaring your opposition to most Americans on your campaign's biggest issue. McCain's unambiguous view is that Iraq is the central front in something called "the war on terror." In taking on this futile and imaginary conquest, McCain is even more ambitious than Bush; there is not a country in the world he would not have us occupy.

We've been saying that in terms of foreign policy, a McCain presidency would be like another Bush presidency. But I think it would be more like a Cheney presidency. McCain isn't Bush. For one thing, McCain isn't stupid. He's Cheney. He's a cantankerous, angry old man who wants to kick some ass. Bush, when he ran for president in 2000, was professedly a non-interventionist; we all remember his bold stance against nation-building, ha ha ha. But the Project for the New American Century -- whose policy of global domination through military force matches McCain's -- chose Bush in the 2000 primaries, and that was largely because of Dick Cheney. PNAC drafted Cheney to find a running mate for Bush, and Cheney found himself. So Bush's role as global gladiator had been decided well before 9/11. But it probably wasn't decided by Bush. The things that have actually been decided by Bush can be counted on the fingers of one nose.

McCain is somewhat more moderate than Bush/Cheney on certain social and economic issues, and they hate him for it. But McCain has made clear that to him, the presidency is about foreign policy. He infamously declared, "I don't think Americans are concerned if we're there [in Iraq] for one hundred years or a thousand years or ten thousand years." He cheerfully promised, "There's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars." That is just so...I don't know...Cheney!

"That's one of the things that makes me very nervous about him," said Pat Buchanan, nervously. "There's no doubt John McCain is going to be a war president...His whole career is wrapped up in the military, national security. He's in Putin's face, he's threatening the Iranians, we're going to be in Iraq a hundred years." Even American Conservative is concerned about the danger of "a militarist suffering from acute narcissism and armed with the Bush Doctrine" who "is not fit to be commander in chief."

Cheney and McCain keep their distance from one another, as well they should, because there is real danger of an explosion. Consider these selected quotations from Senator McCain:

"Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room!" -- McCain to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), on the floor during a debate on immigration

"I'm calling you a fucking jerk!" -- McCain to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

"Thanks for the question, you little jerk! You're drafted!" -- McCain to a New Hampshire high school student who asked if McCain's age was an issue in the election

"Only an asshole would put together a budget like this." -- McCain to former Budget Committee chairman Senator Pete Domenici

These remarks could only have come from one person -- John McCain. And one creature.

And here's one that could only be McCain -- not just because of the obvious reference to his personal experience, but because of the fact that this remark was not made in private, but to reporters aboard his campaign bus in 2000:

"I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live." -- John McCain

Why, Senator, what straight talk you have. We should reconsider our argument that nothing could be worse than another Bush term. There is something much worse -- a Cheney term.


Friday, March 21, 2008

The Religious Wright

In his eloquent response to controversy surrounding Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama has elevated America's ongoing discussion about race. This is as wonderful as the speech itself. But I wonder if we in America will ever have an elevated discussion about religion.

To me, those ubiquitous soundbites of Wright at his worst are not so much the rants of a black man; they are the rants of a clergyman, and I expect nothing more. Whether or not those quotes are fair representations of Wright's total world view, they are coming from a man whose job is to invoke an imaginary deity, claim greater intimacy with this deity than others might enjoy, and report this deity's wishes and desires to his flock. He does this with the aid of a rambling, mediocre, often incoherent storybook, written thousands of years ago, which he believes holds irrefutable answers to modern questions.

Why should we value anything said by somebody like that? There is only one reason: People like that are enormously influential in their communities. They are even enormously influential in the political life of a country whose founders clearly equated freedom with secularism.

There's nothing Obama's clergyman could say which would disappoint me more than the fact that Obama has a clergyman to begin with. I look forward to the day when it's possible to run for President of the United States without professing fidelity to any ancient arrangement of myths and prejudices. I don't question the sincerity of Obama's faith -- or anyone's -- but I seriously question the wisdom.

This argument has nothing to do with race. Pastor John Hagee, whose endorsement was graciously accepted by John McCain, has been spouting hateful nonsense for years -- again, that's his job. There's so much to choose from, but his September 2006 comments about Hurricane Katrina sort of stand out:

"All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that...

"The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment."

Hagee is correct; the Bible does teach that. Because the Bible is terrible. That anyone should look to it for guidance, truth, or wisdom defies all reason. Religion itself defies all reason, and it takes a clergyman to contend that this is a good thing.

Or how about Ohio megachurch pastor and televangelist Rod Parsely, whom McCain has identified as a spiritual adviser? Parsely once said, "I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam...The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore."

Here he is, in his book Silent No More:

"It was to defeat Islam, among other dreams, that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492…Columbus dreamed of defeating the armies of Islam with the armies of Europe made mighty by the wealth of the New World. It was this dream that, in part, began America...

"We may already be losing the battle. As I scan the world, I find that Islam is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, and more devastation than nearly any other force on earth at this moment...

"There are some, of course, who will say that the violence I cite is the exception and not the rule. I beg to differ. I will counter, respectfully, that what some call 'extremists' are instead mainstream believers who are drawing from the well at the very heart of Islam."

Parsely, too, is partly correct, albeit by accident. Islam is evil, or at least it can be, often enough. So is Christianity and so is Judaism. Religion itself is evil. I'm referring to organized religion, based on ancient texts and rallied around movement leaders, not to anyone's personal feelings about the spirituality of the universe. Organized religion is evil, and it has been, to use Parsely's words, "responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, and more devastation" than any other force on Earth.

My family is not particularly religious, but as a child I flirted with it enough to spend about a year in Hebrew school. What I encountered there was shocking: Institutionalized ignorance, racism, and a DNA-based superiority complex. You can't think of yourselves as "the chosen people" without thinking of everyone else as not chosen, preferred less by God. Religious Jews are Jewish supremacists. But as time went by, I realized -- sometimes while accompanying Christian friends to their churches -- that all religions are like this. All religions, whether or not they use these words, think of themselves as "the chosen people," as God's favorites, as people whose particular myths and superstitions make them more righteous, more deserving of happiness, more good than everyone else. Through history, this conviction has been the basis for most of the world's bloodshed. Religion is another word for bigotry; God is another word for war.

So while I am somewhat disappointed by the words of Jeremiah Wright, John Hagee, Rod Parsely, and everyone else who ever traced humanity's predicament to the wiles of a talking snake, I'm willing to take this argument where it leads. As long as we continue to infer credibility upon religious leaders, as long as we allow willful ignorance and zealous cultism to occupy an undeserved place in our political life, we are going to be subjected to hateful nonsense.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCain Misspeaks, Again and Again

John McCain just can't get it right. Democratic infighting has apparently helped his numbers a bit, but for a guy who's running on his command of foreign policy, he's sounding pretty bewildered these days. In Tuesday's press conference, and elsewhere, McCain has been almost Bush-like in his haziness on the details of what's going on in the middle east.

Talking to the press in Amman, Jordan, McCain asserted repeatedly -- and mistakenly -- that Iran was "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." It is "common knowledge, and has been reported in the media," he said, "that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it's unfortunate."

After quite a bit of this, Joseph Lieberman, accompanying McCain on his trip to the middle east, leaned in and told him, "You said that the Iranians were training al Qaeda. You meant they were training extremists, terrorists." McCain, then, to the reporters: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

After the story made the rounds, the McCain campaign issued a statement, and dispatched its surrogates, to spin the gaffe as a simple mistake. "In a press conference today, John McCain misspoke and immediately corrected himself," the campaign's statement said, "by stating that Iran is in fact supporting radical Islamic extremists in Iraq, not al Qaeda." Immediately corrected is a bit of a stretch, but before we had time to ponder that, the very next day -- yesterday -- the McCain campaign issued another statement asserting that "al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated."

McCain, meanwhile, was appearing on radio's conservative Hugh Hewitt Show, saying, "As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq." In short, he has made this claim over and over again, for a long time. Just one of many examples, from a speech in Houston last month: "Al Qaeda is there [in Iraq], they are functioning, they are supported in many times, in many ways by the Iranians."

ThinkProgress sums up the truth:

"The 'common knowledge' McCain cites is simply false. Far from working together, Iran and al Qaeda represent opposing sides in the Iraq civil war. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim extremist group, while Iran is ruled by Shiites, where they make up 90 percent of the population.

"McCain, the so-called foreign policy expert, is confusing reports that Iran was aiding Shiite insurgents in Iraq — one of the groups that virulently opposes al Qaeda. Even some aspects of those reports have been disputed."

Speaking yesterday with NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, McCain insisted again that he "just simply misspoke when I said al Qaeda," but he continued to conflate the group with Iran. "Al Qaeda is killing Americans as we speak," he said. "Islamic extremists are being trained in Iran and they are being sent back into Iran, I mean into Iraq." Speaking of the 3/18 gaffe, McCain claimed, "I corrected it immediately. I corrected it, my comment, immediately. I don’t claim that I won’t misspeak on occasion, but I will correct it immediately. Ha ha ha, I’m astonished. Frankly, I’m astonished."

Ha ha ha, I'm astonished too. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann notes, McCain did not correct himself; he was corrected by Lieberman, and not immediately, but after several minutes (or months, really) of repeating the error. Moreover, Olbermann said, "if you watch yesterday's news conference in its entirety, the notion that McCain momentarily misspoke becomes even less tenable."

"In the first two minutes, he speaks about both al Qaeda and Iran, never mentioning Iraqi extremists, militias, or insurgents, then expands on his fears about Iran's influence...

"Seven minutes later, still having never said extremists, McCain portrays al Qaeda and Iran as mutual beneficiaries of a U.S. departure...

"Three minutes later, still never saying extremists, McCain...not only repeats, but defends, his previous claim...

"He continues his answer with more discussion of Iran's influence, more discussion of al Qaeda being on the run, a problem in Mosul -- references which clearly are about al Qaeda in Iraq. At no point has he ever used the word he supposedly had in mind all this time, extremists."

McCain told O'Donnell it was "ludicrous" to think that a man with his experience lacked a thorough understanding of these matters, and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter reminded Olbermann that McCain has a long history of speaking imprecisely. Alter has a point -- McCain does misspeak a lot, usually backtracking and correcting himself as he goes. But the conflation of Iran and al Qaeda pops up in his rhetoric far too often for these explanations to suffice. If we take McCain at his word, and accept his claim that he really does know what's going on, then we must believe that he is deliberately misrepresenting the facts.

Watch Olbermann's Countdown report here:


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama on Race

In Philadelphia this morning, Barack Obama delivered a major speech in which he addressed issues of race, in this campaign and in this country. Watch the entire speech here:

More soon.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Boldface Italic Names in Blue

GERALDINE FERRARO is Italian-American, and that's all I really have to say about her. Everyone has been paying a lot of attention to her, but she would not be in this position if she were Korean-American, or Epstein-Barr. People are caught up in the concept. I will say, though, that whenever people criticize Geraldine Ferraro, they're always accused of hating Italian-Americans, and that's not right. People shouldn't hate Italian-Americans. Just the same, Geraldine Ferraro should be thanking them for hating her, because what they're actually doing is celebrating the fact that the Italian-American community can finally be proud of something. I applaud Geraldine Ferraro, even though I know that the Obama campaign will probably attack me to hurt her.

MITT ROMNEY told SEAN HANNITY on Tuesday that he would gladly accept the vice-presidential nomination if JOHN McCAIN offered it. "Anybody would be honored to receive that call," Romney said, "and to accept it, of course." On Wednesday, reporters mentioned to McCain that Romney wanted the two-spot. McCain laughed and said, "I got that impression from him watching his interview last night. I got that impression."

McCain gave 60 Minutes'
SCOTT PELLEY some straight talk this week. Referring to McCain's opposition to an Iraq pullout, Pelley asked, "I wonder at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?" McCain replied, "Well, again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos." There is something perversely admirable about a presidential candidate who declares point-blank that he disagrees with the majority of the American people. If McCain had any integrity left, it would smack of integrity.

Speaking of people with no integrity,
GEORGE W. BUSH spoke via videoconference yesterday with U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afganistan. They told him how difficult it was for them to complete their mission of transforming a Taliban theocracy into a peaceful democracy, and they were polite enough not to suggest that resources had perhaps been diverted elsewhere. "I must say, I'm a little envious," George W. Bush told them. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks." With that, Bush retreated to the mansion for a bubble bath and some doughnuts.

BILL CLINTON is impossible not to love, especially now that he's less prominent, and less aggressive. Sometimes, in recent appearances, he gives me the impression that he's ready for this to be over, either way. When he's not fighting so hard, he seems to be having more fun. But he probably went too far on Tuesday, when he detailed the Clinton family's plans to campaign heavily in Pennsylvania, and then added, "Hillary, Chelsea and I expect to cover Pennsylvania like a wet blanket between now and April 22." Heartbreaking though it may be, that's exactly the role HILLARY CLINTON has come to play in this race -- a wet blanket, putting out the Obama fire.

DAVID PLOUFFE, Obama's campaign manager, sent an e-mail to supporters noting that "Pennsylvania is only one of those 10 remaining contests, each important in terms of allocating delegates and ultimately deciding who our nominee will be." In a conference call, Philadelphia Mayor MICHAEL NUTTER said that Plouffe should be fired for writing that. (What? Pennsylvania only one of ten remaining contests? Pennsylvania is the ONLY contest! ONLY!!!)

During the same conference call,
MARK PENN made some truly remarkable statements about how Pennsylvania is really the only state that matters: "Look, we believe that the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes right through the state of Pennsylvania, and if Barack Obama can't win there, how could he win the general election?" Yeah, Penn's right! This Obama guy is pathetic! "We think that this is an incredibly vibrant and important state," Penn said later, cleverly alluding to the title of Obama's controversial bestseller Pennsylvania: Neither Vibrant Nor Important. "We believe fundamentally that it proves a very significant test of who can really win the general election," said Penn, still talking. "We believe that this will again show that Hillary is ready to win, and that Senator Obama really can't win the general election."

The Obama campaign annotated a Clinton campaign e-mail, referring in one comment to "the amazing coincidence that the only 'important' states in the nominating process are the ones that Clinton won." Elsewhere, the Clinton team writes, "If Barack Obama cannot reverse his downward spiral with a big win in Pennsylvania, he cannot possibly be competitive against John McCain in November." The Obama campaign's response: "If they are defining downward spiral as a series of events in which the Clinton campaign has lost more votes, lost more contests and lost more delegates to us – I guess we will have to suffer this horribly painful slide all the way to the nomination and then on to the White House."

BARACK OBAMA, speaking to reporters aboard his plane, on Clinton's contention that the results from Florida and Michigan's January primaries were fair:

"I don't know exactly how she drew that conclusion, since I didn't set foot in Michigan. My name wasn't on the ballot. So the notion that it would somehow be fair for her to obtain significantly more delegates than me in a contest that we both agreed wouldn't count -- I wasn't on the ballot and I didn't campaign there -- just defies logic. I think you could ask my six-year-old if it was fair, and she'd probably say no, it wasn't.

"...Why not just take a poll at the beginning of this whole contest thirteen months ago? We could have saved ourselves billions of dollars and a lot of travel time, and she would have won by twenty points, because nobody campaigned. And she would have been the designated Democratic nominee. I mean, the whole point of campaigning is that the voters actually start getting to know who the candidates are. If we had made that determination in all these states -- just put my name on the ballot, without my campaigning or running any significant ads -- I would have lost by twenty points across the country, right? I don't think anyone would think that was fair."

Apparently, a Michigan do-over is now considered very likely, while a Florida do-over is now considered very unlikely. I wonder how likely or unlikely a Michigan and/or Florida do-over will be considered tomorrow!

NOAH DIAMOND misses the substantive debate that was going on before this became a joke. Because these two candidates agree on the issues, every attack is personal. Every story is about people bickering. I know this didn't work out well for Florida or Michigan, but is it possible that the ten remaining states could have their primaries a little bit earlier?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bush to Fanatics: I Was Right

Speaking to the National Religious Broadcasters' convention yesterday, George W. Bush declared that invading Iraq was the "right decision at this point in my presidency, and it will forever be the right decision." In his own mind. A very lonely place.

"The effects of a free Iraq and a free Afghanistan will reach beyond the borders of those two countries," Bush said, as though there were any indication that either country would be "free" anytime soon. "It will show others what's possible," he added. "And we undertake this work because we believe that every human being bears the image of our maker. That's why we're doing this." Every human being bears the image of our maker -- even if this meant what Bush thinks it means, it would be an absurd thing for a statesman to say; in fact, it's so baseless and irrelevant that you'd expect to hear it from a religious broadcaster. That's why we've invaded and occupied a country which posed no threat to us, and slaughtered perhaps a million of its people? Because every human being bears the image of our maker? That's like Eliot Spitzer saying he slept with prostitutes because the hills are alive with the sound of music.

In his lengthy speech, Bush also vowed to veto the Fairness Doctrine, should it reemerge, reminding us of his opposition to fairness of any kind. He picked the right audience for that one.

"It's a way of resetting a little bit," an anonymous White House official told the New York Times, when asked about Bush's speech. "There was a lot of talk about the surge, and then when the surge worked, it was like, 'Okay, it worked.'" Really? I think it was more like, "Okay, the more troops we put on the ground, the more we can milk the illusion of control; if only we'd thought of this four years ago." The anonymous sycophant continued: "Then ’08 heated up and people sort of moved on. People need to be reminded of who we're up against and what the stakes are."

That's true. We do need to be reminded. We are up against George W. Bush, a court-appointed dictator, a mental deficient, a man who's sublimated a lifetime of failure into one great success. There is no other terrorist in the world who can boast a body count as impressive as Bush's. No other terrorist has the advantage of the world's greatest military or the world's most bloated military budget.

We are also up against John McCain, who promises a continuation, and even an escalation, of Bush's disastrous foreign policy. So thanks for the reminder, anonymous White House official; you're right; the stakes are high.


Monday, March 10, 2008

You Suck! Be My Vice President!

As you may know, I've long wished for a joint ticket. First I wanted it to be Clinton/Obama; then I wanted Obama/Clinton. My high regard for both of them led to a crisis of indecision, and a choice made in the booth on Super Tuesday. Even though I'm decided now, I've still dreamed of the dream ticket, and somehow I wouldn't be completely happy about voting for a Democratic ticket from which either name was missing.

But, I'm sorry to say, I think it's time to let go of it. What once seemed like a beautiful statement of unity, and a double-historic ticket, has become a tiresome political tool in the increasingly tiresome campaign of Hillary Clinton.

The subject returned to the news last week, when the unpredictable Ed Rendell -- Clinton supporter and governor of Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22 -- told the National Journal that whoever wins should invite the other aboard.

"I think it's important that it be offered, and if the loser doesn't accept, I think the loser can say why. You know, obviously, I'd love to see a Clinton/Obama ticket. But if Senator Obama won, I think his offering it to Senator Clinton would be a great gesture. I'm not sure she would take it, I'm not sure he would take it, but either way, I think that it would be good if the offer were made."

In the three days since then, both Clintons and many surrogates have hit this talking point. Bill in Mississippi on Saturday: "If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force." Hillary in Mississippi yesterday: "I've had people say, 'Well I wish I could vote for both of you.' Well, that might be possible some day. But first I need your vote on Tuesday." She's playing on the widespread perception that he wouldn't pick her for V.P., but that if she wins, then we get both of them. You like Barack Obama? I like him too! Vote for me and I'll vote for him!

This might be acceptable if not for so many other recent statements pronouncing Obama unfit for the job of commander-in-chief. The Clinton campaign has even gone so far as to declare that McCain is a better choice than Obama. This was nasty. Obama may very well be our nominee, and now there's a useful soundbite in McCain's pocket. This is from Clinton's press conference on Thursday:

"I think that since we now know Senator McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Senator McCain has done that. And you'll have to ask Senator Obama, with respect to his candidacy.

"...There are certain critical issues that voters always look to in a general election. National security experience, the qualifications to be commander-in-chief, are front and center. They always have been. They always will be. [Senator McCain and I will both] bring a lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002."

So, if Obama were to assume the presidency, this would be such a foreign policy disaster that we'd be better off with the Republican. In fact, the only thing he has accomplished is one speech delivered six years ago. If we are to believe this, Obama must rank somewhere between George W. Bush and mucous. But vote for Hillary and she'll make him vice president!

This always rubs us the wrong way, when the strategic motive behind a particular argument overrules the fact that the argument is in conflict with other strategic arguments. It's not a game. And it doesn't even work. It allowed Obama to look like he's winning, which he is:

"With all due respect, I won twice as many states as Senator Clinton. I won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. I have more delegates than Senator Clinton. So I don't know how someone in second place can offer the vice presidency to someone in first place. If I was in second place, I could understand, but I am in first place right now.

"I don't understand. If I am not ready, why do you think I would be such a great vice president? I don't understand. You can't say he is not ready on day one, then you want him to be your vice president."

Clinton campaign fella Howard Wolfson struggled to explain:

"We do not believe that Senator Obama has passed the commander-in-chief test. But there is a long way between now and Denver.

"...Senator Clinton will not choose any candidate who has not at the time of choosing passed the national security threshold. But we have a long way to go until Denver, and it's not something she's prepared to rule out at this point."

So Howard Wolfson is sticking to the argument that Obama has not "passed the national security threshold," but he remains hopeful that Obama will be a more qualified commander-in-chief by the time of the convention, this August. It sounds like Obama will only be fit to lead our country if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination.

So I have a bad taste in my mouth now, about the joint ticket.

The bad taste gets worse when I think about another possible joint ticket: McCain/Romney. This notion is flying around the Republican echo chamber like so much Silly Putty. It was advanced last week by Karl Rove by way of Bob Novak. We can now add Bill Kristol's name (Bill Kristol) to the list. "Mitt Romney would be good," Kristol said, when asked who he liked for V.P.

And The Weekly Standard is on board, arguing that Romney is now a nationally-known figure who has already been vetted, and besides:

"He's acceptable to conservatives and especially to social conservatives, who disproportionately volunteer as ground troops in Republican presidential campaigns. He's unflappable in debates. With the downturn worsening, the economy may surpass national security as the top issue of the campaign. And after years of success as a big time player in the global economy, Romney understands how markets work. He could shore up McCain's admitted weakness on economic issues.

"Romney has allies in the Bush wing of the Republican party. President Bush favors him as McCain's veep. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, preferred Romney over McCain in the primaries, but never endorsed him publicly. Karl Rove, the president's political strategist, has hinted that he considers Romney to be McCain's best running mate.

"Romney thus appears to have the best ratio of virtues to drawbacks. But there's just one problem: McCain doesn't like him. Just how important compatibility is -- that is something McCain will have to decide."

Of course, there's lots of precedent for presidential candidates choosing vice presidents they personally dislike. Kennedy/Johnson, Reagan/Bush, Bush/Quayle. But does Romney pass the commander-in-chief threshold? Does he bring a lifetime of experience, or just an Olympics he salvaged in 2002? McCain would probably be better off with Barney.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obama Wins Wyoming, Bush Wins Torture

Bush uses his veto to prevent Congress from preventing torture.

Obama wins Wyoming. Bill Clinton says that a Clinton/Obama ticket (I assume he's not thinking Obama/Clinton) would be "almost unstoppable," but Obama -- wisely, for the moment, given the situation -- says, "You won't see me as a vice presidential candidate."

And CNN's website has this cool delegate counter game, which allows you to allocate delegates and observe hypothetical paths to the nomination. What could be more fun?


Small States Do Count

That Samantha Power -- what a monster! But I don't want to talk about that. On Larry King Live last night, Jamal Simmons made an interesting point:

"You know, if Al Gore had won Missouri, or had won New Hampshire, or had won Colorado, or Iowa -- these states that Barack Obama -- and even Senator Clinton won, New Hampshire -- if he had won one of these small states, Florida wouldn't have mattered.

"If John Kerry had won a couple of these states -- Colorado and Missouri, for instance -- then Ohio wouldn't have mattered. Small states do count. And so this notion that because she won Ohio, that means no other contest in the country matters, is just farcical."

Transcript here.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Floridians and Michiganehs

I long for the halcyon days of, well, three days ago, when it looked like Obama might effectively lock up the nomination on March 4. Although I have gradually come to the conclusion that Obama is the better candidate, my yearning isn't actually about wanting to see Obama win. It has more to do with not wanting to deal with the Florida and Michigan mess. But now, with Hillary Clinton resurgent, the mess has to be dealt with, and boy, is it messy.

As you know, Florida and Michigan wanted to have their primaries early this year, and the DNC said no, that would be a violation of the rules. Florida and Michigan said, we don't care; we're going to do it anyway. The DNC said fine, go ahead, but your delegates won't be seated at the convention. Florida and Michigan said, oh, yeah, we're really scared. The Clinton, Obama, and Edwards campaigns agreed not to campaign in either state. In Michigan, Obama and Edwards were not even on the ballot.

And so, late in the very early month of January, Floridians and Michiganehs went to the polls. Both states are rich in delegates -- 210 pledged and 28 super in Florida; 156 pledged and 25 super in Michigan. In Florida, Clinton won with close to 50% of the vote; Obama got 33%. She won in Michigan too, racking up 90,141 more votes than her only rival on the ballot, "Uncommitted."

After winning Florida, Clinton appeared in the state to deliver a victory speech -- an odd thing to do after an election which didn't count -- and since then she has argued vehemently that Florida and Michigan delegates should be seated at the convention. "One-point-seven million Floridians turned out to vote," she said recently. "They clearly believed their votes would count." If that's true, they hadn't read the newspaper.

Lately there's been discussion of a possible do-over, in one form or another. But some, such as Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), a Clinton supporter, are adamant that the vote from January be used. "With two outstanding candidates battling so closely for their party’s nomination," Senator Nelson says, "there’s no way you can tell nearly two million Florida voters they don’t count." Charlie Crist and Jennifer Granholm -- the governors of Florida and Michigan, respectively -- issued a joint statement yesterday:

"The right to vote is at the very foundation of our democracy. This primary season, voters have turned out in record numbers to exercise that right, and it is reprehensible that anyone would seek to silence the voices of 5,163,271 Americans. It is intolerable that the national political parties have denied the citizens of Michigan and Florida their votes and voices at their respective national conventions."

Mostly, this is bullshit. Though it's couched in irrefutable statements like "The right to vote is at the very foundation of our democracy," the Crist/Granholm message drips with bad faith. It would be "reprehensible" and "intolerable" if anyone did "seek to silence the voices of 5,163,271 Americans," but this is simply not what happened, and to paint it that way is, well, reprehensible and intolerable. What really happened is that the Michigan and Florida Democratic parties openly defied the rules set by the national party, in full knowledge of the penalty, and then expected the rules not to matter and the penalty not to stand. If voters in those states were so concerned about being disenfranchised, they should have taken their grievances to their state Democratic parties. They should have insisted that the early primary plan be abandoned, so that their votes would count. The DNC didn't do anything to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan voters. That was done to them by the leaders of their own state parties.

But there is, now, the question of what to do. Many analysts echo the Clinton campaign's insistence that denying convention seats to Florida and Michigan's delegates would be political suicide for the Democrats in November, but I'm not sure that holds water. Regardless of how upset you were that your state's primary was invalid, would that really stop you from voting in the general? I don't quite see it. But let's go along with the notion that something must be done, a compromise reached.

Certainly, seating delegates based on the primaries which took place in January would be supremely unfair. Because of the DNC's ruling, nobody campaigned in Florida, and that made it an easy win for Clinton, the more familiar candidate. Obama, as a newcomer, was at a huge disadvantage, and other primaries have shown his ability to win after voters get to know him. As for Michigan, even Hillary Clinton can't quite bring herself to argue for the validity of an election in which hers was the only name on the ballot. But she does say, "I don’t think that there should be any do-over or any kind of a second run in Florida. I think Florida should be seated."

Some are trying to say that if the January results are not honored, that would be a miscarriage of democracy. But the real miscarriage of democracy would be to change the rules midstream, and to award delegates to Clinton based on races in which her opponent didn't compete -- so as to comply with the rules. That leaves the possibility of do-overs. Clinton and others have dismissed the idea of holding caucuses, leaving a few options: voting by mail (as in Oregon), voting by firehouse (voters drop off ballots at their local fire stations), or entirely new primary elections.

The problem there is money. Neither state's government wants to pay another $12 million to $15 million to do it again. Governor Crist -- a Republican and possible John McCain running mate -- has hysterically demanded that the DNC pay for it. (Howard Dean: "We can’t afford to do that. That’s not our problem. We need our money to win the presidential race.") It's completely absurd that the DNC should have to pay for another round of primaries because its own rules were violated. Dean is right when he says that the Democratic nominee should be "determined in accordance with party rules, and out of respect for the presidential campaigns and the states that did not violate party rules, we are not going to change the rules in the middle of the game."

And just in case this situation isn't yet convoluted enough for you, there's this new wrinkle, brought to light by the Times:

"Should Florida hold a late-late do-over, some people are reading the national party’s bylaws to suggest that the state’s influence could increase greatly. In fact, a late primary/contest could give the state a 15-to-30-percent delegate boost over its already significant slate of 120 pledged delegates. That could add 51 more delegates to Florida’s sway."

My head hurts.


UPDATE: More Florid Michugos in Friday's paper:

"'We haven’t ruled out rerunning these contests,' said Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton and her chief delegate hunter...

"David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, floated the idea of allocating the delegates from the two states 50-50, which would erase Mrs. Clinton’s hypothetical advantage and essentially make the two states meaningless in the competitive delegate count. It would, however, allow Michigan and Florida delegates to participate in the national convention.

"Even if Florida and Michigan conduct new elections, it is unlikely that either candidate will have enough pledged delegates to win the nomination outright, advisers to both campaigns say. But their relative strength in pledged delegates could affect their ability to attract support from superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders whose choices are likely to determine the outcome.

"...'If we don’t do anything, we’re looking at a train wreck,' [Senator Bill] Nelson said. 'I’m hoping reasonable heads with prevail and will see the Democratic Party doesn’t want to be at the convention in Denver two months out from the general election and having a major intraparty fight with two of the biggest and most important states in electing the next president.'"

UPDATE: A DNC rules committee member says a caucus is likely in Michigan:

"A member of the DNC's Rules And Bylaws Committee--the committee that stripped Florida and Michigan of its delegates for moving their primaries before February 5th--told me that Michigan plans to get out of its uncounted delegate problem by announcing a new caucus in the next few days.

"'They want to play. They know how to do caucuses,' the DNC source said. 'That was their plan all along, before they got cute with the primary.'

"Michigan Democrats had originally planned on caucuses after the legally permissible Feb. 5 date, but then went along with top elected Democrats, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who pushed for an early primary."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

McCain: "I Don't Have Anything to Add"

Today John McCain picked up Bush's endorsement in a dull and anticlimactic White House rendezvous. Neither of them said much of substance, but McCain did point out that he has nothing to add.

REPORTER: ...I'd like to ask both of you how the Republican Party, which has been here for eight years, is going to make the case that you're going to provide the change that the voters seem to want, both on Iraq and the economy?

BUSH: Let me start off by saying that in 2000 I said, vote for me, I'm an agent of change. In 2004, I said, I'm not interested in change -- I want to continue as President. Every candidate has got to say "change." That's what the American people expect. And the good news about our candidate is, there will be a new President, a man of character and courage -- but he's not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy. He understands this is a dangerous world, and I understand we better have steadfast leadership who has got the courage and determination to pursue this enemy, so as to protect America. John McCain will find out, when he takes the oath of office, his most important responsibility is to protect the American people from harm. And there's still an enemy that lurks, an enemy that wants to strike us. And this country better have somebody in that Oval Office who understands the stakes, and John McCain understands those stakes.

McCAIN: Thank you, sir. I don't have anything to add.

REPORTER: Can I follow up, sir? How would you --

BUSH: No, you can't follow up. Thank you.

One of the most important duties of our next president will be supporting the investigation and prosecution of the criminals who ran the previous administration. But John McCain, for all his bluster about fighting corruption in Washington, won't do that part of the job. When asked yesterday if he would investigate corruption in the Bush administration, this is what McCain said:

"I do not agree with your sentiment that there has been widespread corruption. I just don't accept that. And by the way, my friends, do you think it would be nice if the President of the United States got a little bit of credit for the fact that there has not been another attack on the United States of America since 9/11? I think he deserves some credit for that. I really do."

Okay...well, your second point has nothing to do with your first point, or with the question you were asked, but thanks very much, my friend. Absurd though it may be to claim that there has not been widespread corruption in the Bush regime, perhaps it's unreasonable to expect the Republican presidential nominee to beat a drum over it.

As for the second part of McCain's answer -- sure, I suppose Bush deserves some of the credit for the fact that there hasn't been a catastrophic attack on American soil since 9/11, but if we're going to go there, we also have to acknowledge that Bush deserves some of the blame for the attack we've had. So thank you, George W. Bush, for only allowing terrorists to attack my city and kill thousands of my neighbors once. That was very good of you.


March Forth

Well, we all had a feeling, going into last night's primary contests, that the Democratic race would not be much closer to resolution than it was yesterday morning. Sure enough, here we are -- nowhere. By winning Ohio (decisively) and Texas (narrowly), Hillary Clinton established that she is unquestionably still in the race, fulfilling her husband's recent prediction that winning those two would keep the campaign afloat.

"No matter what happens tonight," Barack Obama told supporters, "we have nearly the same delegate lead that we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination." He's right. Clinton's success in Ohio did not close the delegate gap, and although it'll be a while before we know exactly where the Texas delegates land, it's possible that Clinton's victory in the popular vote will net fewer delegates than Obama's loss. (Texas, the most complicated Democratic contest, awards some of its delegates by caucus, a format favorable to Obama.) The AP delegate totals are now 1,477 (Obama) and 1,391 (Clinton), with 170 from yesterday yet to be assigned. NBC News has Obama with 1,307 and Clinton with 1,175.

Clinton is right, too, when she says that her campaign has "turned a corner." She did what she needed to do. Last night, aglow with triumph, she pointed out that "no candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary," and this is a meaningful point. Yes, Obama won eleven in a row, but Clinton has won California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas -- the big ones. It helps her electability argument.

This morning on the Early Show, she was feeling confident enough to entertain the old question of a joint ticket: "That may be where this is headed, but of course we have to decide who's on the top of the ticket. And I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me." Obama on the same subject: "We are just focused on winning the nomination. That is my focus. I respect Senator Clinton. She has been a tenacious opponent. It is premature to talk about a joint ticket."

So, anyone who didn't get it before has learned the lesson: Don't count Clinton out. The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, has learned another lesson: Attacking Obama is working. Presumably, Obama will also go negative in the coming weeks.

We're all nervous about the Democratic race remaining undecided for months, but that's what's happening. Looking forward, we have Wyoming this Saturday and Mississippi next Tuesday; Obama is considered the likely winner of both. After that comes Pennsylvania, the last big state left in the primaries. An Obama victory there would be huge, but at the moment Clinton seems more likely. Pennsylvania Democrats are closer to her established constituency than his; it's also a closed primary, and Obama has yet to win a race in which independents cannot vote. But the worst thing about the Pennsylvania primary is that it won't happen until April 22.

And even April 22 is unlikely to be the end. If Clinton does win Pennsylvania, we'll look forward to Indiana and North Carolina (May 6), Nebraska and West Virginia (May 13), Kentucky and Oregon (May 20), and more, all the way up to the last primary (Puerto Rico, June 7) and the Democratic National Convention (August 25 - 28). It sure would be nice to see this wrapped up, but it's hard to imagine why Hillary Clinton would drop out if victory is still possible. We're back where we were before Obama's eleven-state sweep: Staring down the barrel of a race which could be decided by superdelegates, or by a solution to the tricky problem of Florida and Michigan.

And then there's John McCain, who locked up his party's nomination last night, after a gracious concession speech from Mike Huckabee. It was nice having Huckabee around, but at least we won't have to listen to him talk about the Alamo anymore. "I have never believed that I was destined to be president," McCain said last night in a rather sleepy victory speech. I don't think anyone else believes it either, but this is a good moment for McCain. The worst thing about the continuing Democratic race is that it gives McCain a head start on the general election. He'll be raising money all this time. He'll announce a running mate soon. And today, he'll appear at the White House to collect the official endorsement of George W. Bush. Part of the tragedy of John McCain is that this former maverick is now running for a third Bush term. Particularly regarding foreign policy, McCain promises so much more of the Bush Doctrine that we might as well start calling him John Hussein McCain.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bush's Pick for V.P.

Unless Obama cleans up today, we'll continue not knowing who will be the Democratic nominee. But John McCain is so close to being the official Republican nominee that talk on the right has turned to the question of a running mate. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she doesn't want the job. Charlie Crist is being elusive. Karl Rove is talking up Mitt Romney. But what many don't know is that George W. Bush has also made a suggestion:

Is that a dream ticket? When asked for a comment, Barney remarked that in dog years, McCain is 297 years old.


Friday, February 29, 2008

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Last year, when I first saw the above photograph, I was excited. I thought that perhaps a more enlightened political age was at hand, because like many others, I assumed it was a picture of Barack Obama boldly abstaining from the ridiculous Pledge of Allegiance. Of course some would attack him for this -- like this guy, for instance, who declares himself "fed-up in Barack Obama" because Obama "doesn't hold true to the words that define our Country as 'the home of the Free.'" Anyway -- the picture filled me with hope that Obama might inspire others to step forward and say: I love my country; I love the Constitution; flags are meaningless.

I was disappointed to learn that it wasn't a picture of that at all. It's a picture of Obama not putting his hand on his heart during the national anthem -- which isn't a required nationalistic gesture, even among nationalistic gesture enthusiasts. The flag etiquette site helpfully suggests, "When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note." Unless, of course, citizens do not wish to look like idiots.

I know I'm being snarky here, but I'm just so tired of hearing people equate empty gestures and recitations with actual patriotism. Mouthing the Pledge of Allegiance, saluting the flag, standing up when you hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- which is just not a very good song, whether it's our national anthem or not -- none of these things have anything to do with actual love of country. I believe that the people who pretend otherwise have a limited understanding of the American experiment. Unequipped to discuss the issues, they instead get worked up about flags and symbols and nonsense.

It hardly seems worth it, then, to refute the Obama/anthem accusations, but Media Matters helpfully notes that on other occasions, Obama has put his hand on his heart during "The Star-Spangled Banner":

And, as long as we're discussing it, what does it mean if you hear the national anthem and put your hand on your stomach?

And then there was the lapel pin thing. It's hard to think of anything less important than a lapel pin, but if you think the right was hysterical about the picture of Obama without his hand on his heart, you should hear their reaction to Obama's smart and admirable decision not to wear an American flag pin. This one, unlike the hand-on-heart non-issue, is actually a choice Obama has made, and explained:

"You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest.

"Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism."

"Why do we wear pins?" shrieked Sean Hannity. "Because our country is under attack!"

Well, a lapel pin ought to take care of that, Sean. Our country is under attack! Should we rethink our foreign policy? Our approach to the energy crisis? Nah -- wear this pin; that'll show those terrorists. The fury was so resounding that Obama was asked to explain himself again:

"I'm less concerned with what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who serve. And you show your patriotism by being true to your values and ideals. And that's what we have to lead with, our values and ideals."

Not our jewelry.

Here's Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) on the Dan Abrams show this week:

"Those are just questions that the American people want to know about. When you listen to why he doesn't wear an American flag button, it's a very convoluted answer. ... Everybody wears them ... and it's curious that suddenly there's a guy that doesn't want to do it. ... You're running to be the number one cheerleader in the country, so I think these questions aren't off-limits."

It's not that these questions are off-limits; it's that they're stupid. There was nothing at all convoluted about Obama's explanation, but if you're someone who describes the president's role as "number one cheerleader in the country," perhaps Obama's meaning is hard to grasp.

I'm excited about the prospect of a president whose regard for his country runs so deep that it cannot be expressed on the flap of a blazer or the bumper of a car. But I wince when I think of how adamantly the right wing will object to Obama's intelligence and integrity.


Brian Williams on The Daily Show

STEWART: Would you vote for a Jew?

WILLIAMS: Look at the time.

Monday on The Daily Show: Hillary Clinton.


Thursday, February 28, 2008


John McCain can't have it both ways. He can either be the respectful, honorable, decent patriot he so clearly wants to be, or he can be a Republican. There may have been a time when those two ideas were compatible with each other, but George W. Bush has destroyed whatever vestige of honor his party may have had. It's not me -- it's not liberals -- saying that John McCain has to make this choice. It's conservatives.

Bill Cunningham, a right-wing talk radio host of very little brain, warmed up the audience at a McCain campaign event on Tuesday. Referring to Barack Obama as a "hack, Chicago-style Daley politician" -- he meant to say Daley-style Chicago politician, though it hardly matters -- Cunningham unleashed a torrent of vitriol more noteworthy for its supreme ignorance than anything else. "All is going to be right with the world," he mockingly declaimed, "when the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand, and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be singing 'Kumbaya' around the table of Barack Obama." He pronounces kumbaya as kumbay-ay, and Barack Obama as Barack Hussein Obama.

Here's another clever little passage from the Cunningham cavalcade of wit:

"At some point in the near future, the media, the stooges from The New York Times; CBS, the Clinton Broadcasting System; NBC, the Nobody But Clinton network; the All Bill Clinton Channel, ABC; and the Clinton News Network at some point is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama."

How does he come up with this stuff? I wonder what he thinks FOX stands for? Anyway, John McCain sure was upset:

"It’s my understanding that before I came in here a person who was on the program before I spoke made some disparaging remarks about my two colleagues in the Senate, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them Senator. We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans...

"Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong. I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it."

Well, that's very nice, and very John McCain, but it's ultimately unconvincing. McCain's campaign obviously arranged to have Bill Cunningham speak at the event, and they must have known that Cunningham was a spewer of toxic invective. What did they expect? My guess is that they expected exactly what happened. I'm not inclined to believe much of what Cunningham says, but he did tell his friend Sean Hannity that "McCain's people told me to give the faithful red meat. Give them red, raw meat."

I'm sure that McCain himself, at least on the surface, will honor his promise of a respectful, smear-free general election campaign. But that's just John McCain. The Republicans, of course, will attack Obama, and they'll do it with racism, xenophobia, ignorance, and incoherence, and it will be nasty and deceptive and deplorable. In fact, they're already doing it; the Tennessee Republican Party issued a ridiculous statement this week, alligning itself with "a growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States." Not only can't McCain do anything about this; he is actually a part of it, whether or not he wants to be. Whatever claim he may have had to independence has been obliterated by his seven-year love affair with George W. Bush.

"John McCain threw me under a bus -- under the Straight Talk Express," Bill Cunningham huffed on CNN on Tuesday, before slipping right back into it, implying that Obama is a Muslim without quite saying it. Obama's middle name, Cunningham said, is "a proud Muslim name," and "I have nothing but respect for my Muslim brothers and sisters." This is as clever a verbal game as we're likely to hear from Bill Cunningham, a man to whom Alan Colmes is "a left-wing radical extremist to the left of a Bolshevik." Cunningham knows Obama isn't a Muslim, and his choice of phrasing makes it possible for him to claim that he never said otherwise. "His parents called him Barack Hussein Obama, not me," Cunningham told Hannity. Yeah, but not every five seconds.

John McCain is responsible for a hate speech delivered at one of his campaign events. He's responsible for the hideous conduct of his party, because he would like to be its standard-bearer. Soft-spoken contrition after the fact won't work. Despite what some conservative Republicans say, John McCain is a conservative Republican. He should never be president.


Now Bloomberg's REALLY Not Running

In a New York Times op-ed today, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announces definitively that he is not running for president. He's doing the right thing. Bloomberg is an interesting politician, and it's conceivable that he could bring something valuable to a race for the presidency -- just not this one. Bloomberg has made nonpartisanship his cause; he's decided to be about unity. It's not the right war to wage against Obama and McCain. So what would Bloomberg bring to the table? Just however much money it costs to run for president.

His piece in the Times is classy and honorable. I get slightly queasy when the unity crowd lays it on too thick; I agree with a lot of the general criticism of the two-party system, and I agree that partisan warfare is clogging the legislative machinery, but I also think the Republicans are wrong. But he makes his case well, embodying the unity he preaches. He attacks no one. And there's no denying that he's correct when he says that "forces that prevent meaningful progress are powerful, and they exist in both parties."

Bloomberg is the best mayor the ultimate American city has had in a long time. One of his better points -- largely because so few seem to be making it -- has to do with the importance of our cities:

"In every city I have visited — from Baltimore to New Orleans to Seattle — the message of an independent approach has resonated strongly, and so has the need for a new urban agenda. More than 65 percent of Americans now live in urban areas — our nation’s economic engines. But you would never know that listening to the presidential candidates. At a time when our national economy is sputtering, to say the least, what are we doing to fuel job growth in our cities, and to revive cities that have never fully recovered from the manufacturing losses of recent decades?"

Anyway, here's where he says he's not running:

"I believe that an independent approach to these issues is essential to governing our nation — and that an independent can win the presidency. I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership. The most productive role that I can serve is to push them forward, by using the means at my disposal to promote a real and honest debate.

"In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work to steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance. And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House."


Wednesday, February 27, 2008